For many young people, going to university is an exercise in liberation. Studying is - or should be - your primary focus, but just as important is the opportunity to make new friends, go to parties and discover who you really are now that you're on the cusp of adulthood.
However, when you're living with psoriasis or any other skin disease, student life can be an intimidating and isolating experience. At a time when the pressure to socialise and make new friends is at its height, a psoriasis outbreak can leave you wanting nothing more than to hide away from the world.
Balancing your psoriasis coping skills with all of these newfound pressures is never going to be easy, but there are steps you can take to help you get the best out of your student experience...
Be open about your condition
Students are notoriously not the most tactful people in the world, and it's possible that you'll find yourself fielding questions about your condition in the classroom or on nights out. Try not to react with hurt or anger when faced with these questions, even if you find them rude or intrusive. Most people aren't actually trying to be unkind, no matter how poorly chosen their words may be. Simply tell them that you have psoriasis, and briefly explain what it is. Once you've done that, there's no reason why they should have to bring it up again.
Practice stress management techniques
Many psoriasis sufferers find that stress can aggravate their condition, and few experiences are more stressful than starting a new life as a student. Practise deep breathing, take alone time where you need it and make use of the support resources that all universities should have. You can't eliminate stress any more than you can eliminate psoriasis, but both conditions can be managed.
Too many psoriasis sufferers suffer in silence. Don't be one of them. If you have a treatment that works for you, be consistent with it. If you don't, speak to your GP or ask for a referral to a dermatologist. Use emollients and moisturising products to keep your symptoms manageable. New treatments are being developed all the time, and there's always a way to make your situation better, so don't bury your head in the sand.
Watch your alcohol intake
Any student would be advised to drink responsibly or not at all during their heady student days, but as a psoriasis sufferer this is particularly important, as it can aggravate your symptoms. If your skin reacts badly to alcohol consumption, don't drink. As hard as it can feel not to bow to peer pressure, you don't need it to have a full and enriching social experience - and your new friends will soon come to appreciate a sober presence when they need somebody to get them home safely.
Don't be defined by your condition
The most important thing you can remember as a student, or as a person, is that everybody you meet is tackling some kind of insecurity. Yours just might be a little more visible. If you can put psoriasis to the back of your mind and focus on all the exciting opportunities and experiences that come with this new chapter in your life, you'll soon find that living with your condition isn't nearly as difficult as you might have thought.